Life's Not Fair...So What!, at the Lakeshore Theater. John R. Powers, best known for the musical Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, has reached elderhood with his youthful optimism and sense of wonder intact. In this solo performance he's supposedly packing up to leave his Chicago row house after the kids have flown the nest and reminisces about corner stores, front-stoop conversations, and other bygone traditions. Though he addresses a range of adult topics--from drinking to death to Jerry Springer--we still hear in his voice the amazement of a schoolboy contemplating his first confession.
The evening is a sort of anthology, following no particular chronology or pattern. Like an aging rock star on tour, Powers mixes new material with old standards--a banjo interlude, including commentary on the value of "doing things you stink at," follows a story about "Sister Lee, the Clint Eastwood of nuns." Most striking is the utter absence of cynicism, a rarity audiences may find either wonderfully refreshing or toothachy sweet. It's ironic that this wholesome, life-affirming production should be the vehicle for reviving the Lakeshore Theater, formerly the Broadway Theatre, which most recently housed the raunchy Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Chris Ritter and Richard Friedman have transformed the decaying space into a comfortable, colorful 344-seat venue--a welcome presence in the Lakeview neighborhood, which recently lost the Jane Addams Hull House.